•As OGUN APC Governorship Aspirant
•Grp President, Dr. GBOLADE OSINOWO Explains
Last year, when the Ijebu Agenda, a group of Elders in Ijebuland threw its weight behind the governorship aspiration of Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, the current Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Ogun State, many people didn’t quite understand why it did so. Out of about 9 Ijebu aspirants who had signified their interest in running for the governorship, Bimbo Ashiru emerged No 1, after it was put to voting system. In this interview, Dr. Gbolade Osinowo, the President of Ijebu Agenda Group, reveals why Ashiru is their choice.
Why did your group throw its weight behind Otunba Bimbo Ashiru?
It did because we wanted the Ijebus and Remos to produce a candidate. After we made a case to the Governor of Ogun State on the need to have a level playing field in the coming governorship race and not restrict it to only Yewa aspirants, he agreed, so we decided to reduce the number of aspirants coming from the Ijebu & Remo area. Our plea to Mr. Governor then was to provide a level playing field. “Let the aspirants from Ijebu and Remo also be allowed to participate.
But then our leader, Are T. Olu Dawodu, the Chairman of the APC Elders’ Forum, said it was not enough to say we should participate because the governor is a very important person in the party. If he tilts towards Yewa we would have an uphill task. Let’s make it easier for us. Let us learn from the example of Yewa. Why has Yewa failed? It is because the area is alwayz presenting many aspirants.
So, we should try and minimise that danger associated with having many aspirants, that we should try and evolve a strategy in which the number of Ijebu who will aspire will be limited. So we then called on all the Ijebus who are interested. We asked them if they would subscribe to a game of screening and adopt a consensus candidate and 9 of them signed on, that they were willing to do it. We then empanelled a committee of reputable elderly persons led by Chief Olu Okuboyejo. He was a pioneer Permanent Secretary in Ogun State. He is one of the 9 or 10 originally seconded from the old Western State. And the sole survivor now. He is still agile. He still has a good mind. We asked him to preside over the panel.
Chief Okuboyejo is not really a politician. We asked Alhaji Dawodu, who is a politician to join the committee. He used to be a Commissioner in Osoba government, a long time ago. He used to be a Chairman of Sagamu local government. And then we brought in Bashorun Adebisi Adesanya, who is not really a politician. He was the former CEO of Coca Cola and then Senator Dipo Odujinrin. We empanelled them and said look, screen the aspirants and recommend one to us.
The person would be the Ijebu consensus aspirant and we would make sure we push him as far as possible to become the candidate in the race.
9 aspirants came up. 2 of them were former Deputy Governors. Senators Gbenga Kaka and Prince Segun Adesegun. Another 2 are Senators- Kaka himself and Senator Mamora. 2 are serving Commissioners in Amosun’s cabinet. They are Otunba Bimbo Ashiru and Bashorun Muyiwa Oladipupo.
There are 3 others, who are eminent persons in their own right: Jimi Lawal, former MD, Alpha Merchant Bank, now a Senior Special Adviser to the Governor of Kaduna State, government Otunba Yomi Odunowo (Yomi Cash) and Dr. Taofeek Kassim, a physician. They screened them and after the screening committee had finished its job, they told me their decision and I called all the aspirants and said: How I wish that all of you could be governor. It is not possible because there is only one governors seat.
Only one of you will scale through and I want all of you to please cooperate. They all pledged to cooperate. The following day called a Stakeholders meeting and an expanded leadership meeting. There and then we asked committee to announce the result. The Bimbo Ashiru was picked as the consensus candidate. We presented him to them, and we went ahead to present him to other major stakeholder whose interest and support we had sought.
We then went to the State Exco to say this is our aspirant. At the state executive level, it was reiterated that in the party’s Constitution, there is no where it says one side of the state could be excluded. Members said the aspirant was free to go round the state selling his aspiration and we have since been canvassing support for him not only in Ijebu senatorial district, but in other senatorial districts as well. That is the long and short of it.
How do you see the progress made so far in terms of the possibility of the Ijebus playing a major role in the coming election?
It started as an Ijebu reaction to some perceived injustice. But, we have gone beyond that. I think now it’s a question of the aspirant himself. His capacity, his capability, his acceptance by the people and what he can do.
“I remember that when we started, I went to my former boss and leader, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. I told him what we, Ijebus, felt sad about his position over the Yewa issue.
And he said No, its Yewas turn. You guys are being unfair bla, bla, bla. I said I was once a governorship aspirant. You said I should sit down, and that we should bring a minority. We brought Remo. Why didn’t the Egbas bring Yewa at that time? When you brought Olurin, the Egbas didn’t go along with you, they brought Amosun.
How are you sure this time around, they won’t bring another person, he insisted.
So, we parted on that note that I should follow my conscience.
After we had gone through the process that brought out Ashiru, I went back to Obasanjo. I said sir, the Ijebu will like to come and present their candidate to you. He said who is your aspirant? I said Bimbo Ashiru and he said, oh were you able to speak with one voice? I said oh yes. He said that is remarkable.
Then, that means there is a problem ooo. I said why. He said Bimbo Ashiru is the most qualified of the people he had seen. He said he knew him very well. It seems it’s a very good choice that you have made”. So, that is the position now. Everywhere we have gone, people keep telling us that you people have created a problem ooo.
Because this is evidently the most qualified aspirant. And I know that Senator Ibikunle Amosun if he searches his heart, on all the people who have worked with him in the last 8 years, how many of them could compare with Bimbo Ashiru. In any case, the answer to that question is self evident. Amosun retained him in his cabinet after the 1st term and retained him in the same office, Commerce and Industry Ministry, which is the goose that lays the golden egg, which is the Ministry responsible for the remarkable growth of his IGR.
So, we think that the more people get to know about Bimbo Ashiru and his ability, antecedent, integrity and so on the more they would rally to his cause. He is no longer an Ijebu aspirant. It’s not an Ijebu thing. It’s just that this is an aspirant who has his origin from Ijebu part of the state, who might have been deprived of an opportunity of putting himself forward if the party leadership didn’t change its position. I am very optimistic that people would continue to rally to his cause and he would make a good show.